Recommended Reading in the Catholic Just War Tradition

Possessing only rudimentary knowledge of Catholic thought on the just war tradition, I recently asked my father for a good book on the subject. He recommended George Weigel’s Tranquillitas Ordinis: The present failure and future promise of American Catholic Thought on War & Peace (Oxford UP, 1987), which he had previously made use of in composing his essay War and The Eclipse of Moral Reason. As one might expect, the book also recieved high praise from Michael Novak, Fr. R.J. Neuhaus, and now-Cardinal Avery Dulles.

To borrow from John C. Campbell’s mini-review in Foreign Affairs, Weigel’s basic thesis is that

“. . . the American Catholic establishment has abandoned traditional thought on questions of war and peace derived from St. Augustine through Aquinas to Vatican II, a tradition that saw peace as inseparable from security and freedom in an ordered political community. This “failure,” . . . has been marked by 20 years or so of relapse into pacifism, neoisolationism, Third World-ism and an unwillingness to confront the continuing threat of totalitarianism, culminating in the U.S. Catholic bishops’ 1983 statement, “The Challenge of Peace”

It also recieved favorable reviews by Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, Robert Royal and Charles Leonard in the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly Newsletter.

The book is unfortunately out of print, but I managed to find a copy through Bookfinder.Com (great resource for bibliophiles!). It arrived in the mail yesterday, for which I’ve been very thankful.

Speaking of George Weigel, in this week’s column “The Catholic Difference”, he seeks to dispell mistaken assumptions regarding the prospect of just war due to comments made by Archbishop Martino in the March 23-29 edition of National Catholic Register:

Question: “Are you suggesting there is no such thing as a just war anymore?”

Archbishop Martino: “Absolutely. I think with modern weaponry, there is no proportionality between the offense and the reply. It makes much more damage. War is so destructive now. It is not just a fight between one person and another.”

Weigel thinks that something is “seriously awry” with Martino’s statements and demands immediate reparations “to safeguard the integrity of the Church’s doctrine, its theology, and its moral witness for peace.”

Let’s hope that Martino will honor Weigel’s request with a clarification before Michael Moore uses them to bolster his own unwarranted conclusion about the Church and the war.

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